Playing for a new team can be difficult. For so many of the players on the Cincinnati Bearcats’ roster, that is the primary challenge they are facing this season. You’re probably tired of hearing that since the discussion all summer was how the Bearcats would incorporate multiple transfer players as well as several freshmen. Yes, there are veterans around, but success for the Bearcats won’t arrive unless some of the new guys step up.
It’s still early on, but the Bearcats have generally found that success. Despite a rough loss on opening night against Ohio State, the Bearcats are 2-1, a top 25 team in adjusted efficiency margin, according to KenPom, and about to take a shot at winning the Paradise Jam. Some usual suspects have been present, with Trevon Scott powering the team on the boards, Keith Williams having a nice start and Jarron Cumberland leading the team in scoring despite a mysterious absence from last Thursday’s game. Among those returning contributors, two new guys have really stood out.
The first of them is Jaevin Cumberland. If you look at Cumberland’s per game stats, you might think he’s taken a step back from last year when he averaged 17.2 points and 3.5 assists per game for Oakland. However, even though his marks this season are lower (11 points per game, three assists per game), you can chalk a lot of that up to the balance that John Brannen’s team has struck at UC. Six different players are averaging at least eight points per game and four of them are in double figures.
With so many options, Cumberland hasn’t been shooting as much as he did at Oakland. He is averaging 8.7 field goals per game this year compared with slightly more than a dozen shots a year ago. With fewer shots, Cumberland has opted to take ones of a bit more value. We all know about the continued trend toward shooting more threes in organized basketball, and Cumberland is no stranger to this philosophy. He took 8.3 threes per game last season after all. He is still taking quite a few attempts from distance this year (7.3) while his three-point attempt rate sits at a career high (.846).
All those shots look a lot better when they go in and luckily for the Bearcats, Cumberland is getting plenty to fall. He is shooting 40.9 percent from three and producing a true shooting rate of 61.2 percent and an effective field goal rate of 59.6 percent. That ruthlessly efficient three-point shooting goes particularly well with strong Cumberland’s strong playmaking skills which have also carried over from Oakland. Cumberland is second on the team in assist rate (23.9 percent) and he really flashed his passing skills last Thursday when he earned a start and handed out six assists to go with 13 points and five steals.
Such a performance had to share the limelight with a dominant effort from Chris Vogt. The 7’1” center has added plenty of size in the frontcourt and as a former player for Brannen at Northern Kentucky, he’s taken well to his role in a system that’s new to UC. Against Alabama A&M, Vogt produced 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting while also ripping down 10 rebounds. That was just the second double-double of his career but since he seems to have a hold on a starting spot and since his minutes have gone up in each game this season, there may be more on the way.
It starts on offense, where Vogt has been in uncharted territories based on his career work. Vogt is averaging 23.4 points per 40 minutes and 11.3 points per game. He is shooting 68.2 percent from the floor, which matches his effective field goal rate. In addition, the Bearcats have been feeding him the ball. His usage rate (25.5 percent) is the highest on the team. Those are all career-high numbers and they’ve led to an offensive rating of 116.9, which, as you might have guessed, is also a career-high.
Elsewhere on the floor, Vogt has gotten it done by producing solidly on the glass and defense. Even though he’s only had one game with 10 rebounds or more, he is second on the team in rebounds per game (5.7) and fourth in total rebound rate (15.4 percent). He’s also been more than serviceable on defense and even if he may not be swatting every shot attempt from around the rim, he is averaging one block per game and has a defensive rating of 84.2.
It’s still too early to start campaigning for Cumberland and Vogt to be included on the all-American Athletic Conference teams. Both players struggled heavily against Ohio State, with Cumberland scoring three points on 1-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes and Vogt fouling out with four points and four rebounds in only 13 minutes. However, if they continue to get comfortable and make plays like they have the last two games, they’ll be well on their way to helping to solidify the Bearcats’ rotation and their chances at competing for a league title.